Volunteers’ Week 2020

For Volunteers’ Week 2020, AVM asked leaders from across the sector to share their thoughts on what Volunteers’ Week means for them during a global pandemic. We will be publishing a new blog daily, from Monday 1st June.

Information and links to resources for Volunteers’ Week in England are also available below.

National Volunteers’ Week

Throughout the last month, we have been working with Tiger de Souza to share information about the national plans for Volunteers Week in England. Thanks to Tiger and a group of volunteers from our profession, this year’s Volunteers Week efforts are truly owned by volunteer managers.

There is fantastic activity happening in all countries across the UK, with Volunteers’ Week being supported by Volunteer Scotland, WCVA and Volunteer Now in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This week we will be joining others to share and connect to the national messages. You can still get involved in one or all of the following opportunities. Join many of your colleagues in saying thank you in a connected and collaborative way. Download the messaging toolkit to give you all the details you need. Don’t forget to use #VolunteersWeek on everything you do.

  1. Send out the coordinated, consistent press release on 1st June highlighting the importance of volunteers. Download the template from the AVM website.
  2. Share the Volunteers Week 2020 film ‘commUNITY makes us’, narrated by Claire Balding and Gethan Jones. It celebrates the contribution of volunteers before, during and after the pandemic. You can find the English and Welsh versions on YouTube to share.
  3. Encourage your organisation, both internally and externally, to show their appreciation by using the Wave Your Appreciation for Volunteers approach from Volunteering Australia. If you do use this please use #WaveForVolunteers alongside #VolunteersWeek
  4. Link your activities, case studies and communications to one of the seven-day themes. 
    • Monday – Listening & support (e.g. helplines, citizens advice)
    • Tuesday – Health & well-being (e.g. mental health, tackling social isolation)
    • Wednesday – Fundraising to support service delivery (e.g. charity shops)
    • Thursday – COVID-19 response and informal community civic action
    • Friday – Nature & Outdoors
    • Saturday – Arts & Culture
    • Sunday – Sport & Leisure
  5. To help give a boost to the message on social media, join others in a ‘howl’ through Pack.org over the course of this week. Pack.org is a way for people to work together on social media to help share a key message or campaign. Sign up up to the VW2020 Pack.
  6. Run virtual activities with The Big Lunch on 6th & 7th June to bring volunteers together to say thank you.
  7. Send out the co-ordinated, consistent press release on 8th June that highlights that volunteers are #NeverMoreNeeded and link to that wider campaign. A template will be available soon.

Are you available to help plan and organise the community wide response to COVID-19?

Shared on behalf of Volunteering Matters


NAVCA, NCVO and Volunteering Matters are working together on a project to recruit and place volunteers with Volunteer Centres and Local Infrastructure Organisations who are experiencing a significant increase in volunteer registrations as a result of Covid 19. In a survey of NAVCA members, a number told us they needed additional resources to manage all those who responded to calls for volunteers, some of whom have still to be contacted never mind being given meaningful tasks to do. 

We are looking for volunteers with expert co-ordination and brilliant communication skills and we have two roles that recognise the range of equally important functions that those managing volunteers will be doing – a Volunteering Manager (supporting the manager on a range of activities) and a Volunteer Co-ordinator (communicating and engaging more directly with volunteers). 

Both roles can be done from home, working remotely. 

Are you able to share your skills and expertise as an experienced Volunteer Manager/Co-ordinator within a Volunteer Centre or Infrastructure Organisation? While each organisation will have its own specific needs and practice the roles will broadly involve working alongside the staff on all or some of the following tasks and depend on how much time you have available:

  • Providing support to place new and existing volunteers in relevant local opportunities and organisations.
  • Training new volunteers using a range of online platforms.
  • Working alongside existing staff and volunteers to manage change.
  • Liaising with a range of community groups and hubs on their needs and challenges with regard to volunteer management. 
  • Responding to enquiries about volunteering and referring as appropriate to other staff members or other agencies.       
  • Compiling information and circulating to existing volunteers, signposting them to additional resources as appropriate.
  • Using databases, manipulating spreadsheets.
  • Keeping in touch with those waiting to volunteer, alerting them to new opportunities and supporting them to access these with a view to keeping them motivated and available as lockdown eases and new volunteering opportunities emerge. 

This is a new project and will require your knowledge and expertise to make it ready for delivery to Volunteer Centres. You will need to be open and flexible, joining us in demonstrating the value of actively and skilfully managing volunteering. 

If you would like to know more or to register your interest please contact: Barbara Regnier, Volunteering Matters [email protected]

What’s the point of volunteer managers… part 2

‘What’s Next’ is this year’s International Volunteer Managers (IVM) Day theme, and it is the hot topic on the lips of those volunteer managers (VMs) who have been furloughed, as much as it is on those that haven’t been.

How they answer this question at this current time initially depends on how they feel they have been treated by their organisation as an employee. how they have been communicated with and supported during this time, and how many people in their organisation have been furloughed. This is about their organisation’s culture. No one has been taken by surprise by how their organisation has behaved towards them (and it wasn’t all negative for some! 😁).

The reality is, VMs can’t picture their return. They don’t know what has, is or will happen, and therefore can’t really plan. Very few feel like they will be able to shape how or what the organisation does next in relation to the volunteering experience, engagement, delivery and output on their return.  Many fear that leaving it until their return will be too late.

Our biggest challenge is that we work in organisations that generally don’t see themselves as organisations that ‘do’ volunteering – they involve volunteers to deliver their purpose. Unfortunately this does mean that volunteers are seen as a resource and commodity to utilise, rather than a driving force for decision making. This isn’t to say those same organisations don’t recognise the importance and uniqueness volunteers bring to their role, enhancing their success; it’s just felt that this isn’t at the forefront of senior management’s decision making.

VMs who aren’t on senior leadership teams* do a great job of influencing from where they are (although they don’t think they do and as a profession we are frequently told that we need to do better), and when they get back, they will continue to do so. They hope that they haven’t lost too much ground, that the relationships with their volunteers (on behalf of themselves and their organisations) aren’t too damaged by their absence, they will get the support and resource they need, they will be shown empathy for their enforced absence, and they will be able to reciprocate this back to those that have stayed working who might feel resentful towards them.

This is hard for everyone and it’s going to be a while before organisations are back whole again, most likely in a slightly new configuration. In the meantime, we will continue to be there for furloughed VMs and if you are reading this and want to connect with us, do please get in touch to find out how you can join our community.


*(I should add,  it’s not to say those that are on the senior leadership team don’t, it’s just that they aren’t part of my network calls.)

Collaborating for Volunteers’ Week 2020

AVM, facilitated by Andy Broomhead (Diabetes UK), hosted 38 organisations for an information and networking session on Volunteers Week 2020. The group heard from Sarah Merrington, deputising for Tiger de Souza, on the plans for this year’s coordinated response to Volunteers Week in England. Sarah ran through the plans for the week and how organisations could get behind the coordinated response, by aligning their messaging and activity where they can. Participants then broke out into groups to discuss what they were doing for the week and how it might link to the national response. 

A recording of Sarah’s presentation is available below.

In summary the main activities will be:

  • Shared press release on day 1 to announce the Volunteers Week 2020 and our intentions, sent by all of us in a synchronised way (template to be provided)
  • Shared joint Volunteers Week 2020 video promoted through social media by all organisations on day 1
  • Use of daily ‘themes’ so we do our external pushes through the week in a joined up way to maximise media interest and gain most coverage. These are:
    • Monday – Listening & Support
    • Tuesday – Health & Well-being 
    • Wednesday – Fundraising for the causes we care about
    • Thursday – COVID-19 response and informal community civic action
    • Friday – Nature & the Outdoors
    • Saturday – Art & Culture
    • Sunday – Sport & Leisure
  • Continuation of the Australian #waveforvolunteers social media campaign, by encouraging as many as possible to take a photo of themselves saying thank you to volunteers in this way – something you can be doing on the day that makes most sense to your organisation
  • Make a big effort on Thursday to recognise the volunteers who are helping out in an informal way who don’t normally get acknowledged through Volunteers Week
  • Link to the Big Virtual Lunch on 6/7th June any opportunities organisations have for their volunteers coming together virtually:  https://www.edenprojectcommunities.com/thebiglunchhomepage
  • Final synchronised press release on 8th June focusing on volunteering to support us coming out of the pandemic linked to the #nevermoreneeded campaign 

A full messaging toolkit will be available from Friday 22nd May which will include information about how you link up to each element, template press releases, hashtags and key messages. To receive this and be a part of this fantastic movement of over 60 organisations coming together to promote as one voice the vital role volunteers play in supporting society, email [email protected] and join the ‘Voluncheers Planning Group’ on Voluntary Voice.

For AVM members in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Volunteers Week is being coordinated by Volunteer ScotlandWCVA and Volunteer Now.

Resources for Volunteers’ Week 2020

Volunteer engagement during lockdown

When we closed our doors at Tate in March, the Volunteers Team immediately made keeping volunteers supported and connected our top priority. The result has been some fantastic volunteer engagement with positive feedback pouring in from volunteers – ‘I’ve never felt so connected in my life’ said one volunteer.  

Tate has close to 400 volunteers involved in front of house activities – welcoming visitors and leading our brilliant free guided tours. Some have been volunteering with us for 10, 20, 30 even 40 years and all are incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about their involvement in the gallery spaces.  So, what to do whilst those gallery spaces were closed?  

Within just a few weeks of closure, we had set up virtual volunteer sessions with volunteers giving talks about Art to other volunteers – from 10 minute talks through to one hour presentations.  These talks have proved immensely popular with up to 98 participants per session.  We’ve run two talks per week and now have talks booked in through into June.  We had to support a number of volunteers over the phone with technology in order for them to join the talks but this effort was more than worthwhile as volunteers were clearly over the moon to have cracked the tech and to join sessions and ‘see’ other volunteers online.

The Volunteers Team also identified volunteers who are particularly isolated or vulnerable who we felt might appreciate regular support calls and these calls have been greatly appreciated.  We wrote some  ‘weekly chat guidelines for staff and volunteers’ to clarify the purpose of the calls as being to connect with each other and reduce feelings of isolation; to lift spirits and share suggestions of things to do.  We explained calls were not to offer advice e.g. on finances, housing or personal matters and ensured all parties knew who to contact if they felt uncomfortable or concerned at any time.

One of the team had another great idea, setting up an Instagram for the volunteers to share their art works with each other and this has proved very popular.  It’s been great to see the creativity and talents shared in recent weeks. 

On top of this, we’ve kept up with all communications via email and sent out our weekly updates as usual every Friday packed with updates and lots of great links to Art programmes, articles and events that volunteers can watch, listen to, explore or read.

Our next challenge at Tate will be how to involve all our engaged and enthusiastic volunteers safely once we re-open.  Our volunteers cannot wait to get back to volunteering at the galleries so now we are beginning to explore what that will look like as part of our re-opening plans.

Meantime, we are all excited about this week’s talks on Zoom – 114 booked on so far! 


Jo joined Tate as Senior Volunteers Manager 6 months ago following over 30 years working with volunteers in the Charity sector. From 2015-2019, she was Head of Volunteering at Whizz-Kidz, a national charity supporting young wheelchair users. Prior to this, Jo managed international volunteer programmes at VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and is still involved as a volunteer running the VSO London Action Group. Jo is a passionate advocate for the value of volunteering.

What’s the point of volunteer managers?

Here at AVM we believe that volunteer managers are vital in ensuring any volunteering effort is directed, efficient, effective and recognised, along with the person and people behind that volunteering effort. We believe that, as we often see, organisations don’t always pay attention to the volunteering relationship in the way they should. We’re here to help our members feel a little less lonely and a little more heard.

The title of this blog is quite provocative, depending on whether you read it in a positive or negative voice. I would say if you are reading this, you probably would be on the side of positivity.

During this crisis we’ve seen communities pull together and ‘volunteer’ to help their friends, families and neighbours – this isn’t new, but is always vital to any society.

We have also seen a call for organised and coordinated volunteering – that usually comes from an organisation backing. This has also been closely followed by an outcry of dismay from volunteers who have not been put to use (yet). It’s always hard to get this right from the get go, and it’s even harder to coordinate an approach when the services, infrastructure, organisations and charities you would coordinate with have been decimated, stretched and diversified. I think it is safe to say that it’s even harder to know when the future is unknown and organisations are having to focus on cash flow – they have furloughed as many staff as quickly as possible and for as long as possible, to ensure they can be here on the other side of this crisis. Unsurprisingly this has included volunteer managers. But how do volunteer managers come back from here?

It’s too early to tell if they have succeeded and that will all depend on what we think success should look like and will be very personal to each individual involved.

I have started to hold network calls with members who have been furloughed – we know those on the call are a fraction of who have been furloughed but they do come from the full cross section of sectors involving volunteers. It’s clear they feel in the dark; they understand the why but they are frustrated. They want to know that their organisation’s volunteers are being thought about during any decision making made by their organisation’s leaders (they aren’t confident they will be – but this isn’t new). If volunteers are still delivering activities on behalf of the organisation, they want to know they are getting the same care and attention they know is needed. Will the volunteering offer be the same on return and if so, will it still work? How does the volunteering offer and output continue if our volunteers aren’t willing to come back in the same way? When will volunteer managers be able to explore this and advise? What repairs to the relationship on behalf of their organisation will they need to do? Will they be heard when they make a recommendation? Will they get the support (time and money) they need? Will they be allowed to make their organisation stronger and more resilient in the future? How crucial are their volunteers in what their organisation does?

These are lots of questions, and there are very few answers at this time. Depending on the organisation and their raison d’etre, the VMs line manager and director(s) and the timeframe they are/will be working within will all play a part in what happens next.

This blog may not be the most linear in topic but then none of the conversations I am having at the moment are. We will continue to talk with and listen to our members and find ways to help them get through this unusual time.


Rachel Ball is a Director of AVM, and a volunteer manager. At time of writing, Rachel is on furlough due to impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Using Design Thinking to innovate and problem solve

A practical guide for leaders of volunteers

To complement our BiteSize mini series on design thinking, Amie Frayne, Volunteer Development Manager at The Brain Tumour Charity, has shared a practical guide to design thinking, for leaders of volunteers.

Amie explains why she developed this, in the guide:

In my experience as a volunteer manager, it can sometimes be challenging to get buy-in across my organisation, when it comes to involving volunteers in new and innovative ways. When planning for the future or for an upcoming project, including volunteers to maximise impact often isn’t at the forefront of my colleague’s minds.

This was perfectly highlighted when a couple of weeks ago, our corporate team carried out a needs analysis: they asked each team to come up with ways that our corporate partners could support them, be it pro-bono work, or gifts in kind. Teams came up with a long list of skills they were looking for and projects that would benefit from expertise. I had carried out a similar exercise for volunteering a few months previously, with little success, and yet looking down the list, a large proportion of the opportunities could have easily been filled by volunteers.

This is not to dismiss the valuable contribution that corporate partners might bring to The Charity, but it seems there is something about the word ‘volunteer’ that stops people coming up with new, potentially valuable ways for people to donate their time and skills. So how can we get people thinking differently?

This was exactly the conversation I was having with a colleague a few weeks ago, who suggest I look into Design Thinking. While in no way a new idea, it was new to me – so I went away and did my research (there’s some useful content in this podcast, if you’re interested).

So what is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a process for creative problem solving. At its core, it’s a human-centred. It focuses on and seeks to understand the people who are involved, redefining problems and identifying new solutions – that might not have been initially obvious. The idea is that using a Design Thinking approach will lead to better products, services or processes.

I decided to try this approach with The Charity’s regional fundraising team, to identify new opportunities for volunteers, to maximise the teams’ impact, while also providing a great experience for those donating their time. Community volunteers have always played a vital role for The Charity, raising awareness, attending fundraising events, giving talks and managing collection tins. But as this team has developed over time, so too has developed lots of untapped potential for volunteering.

Before running the session, I felt uncertain about how it would be received. But what I quickly found was that Design Thinking allowed team members to feel heard, their concerns understood. By taking a collaborative approach to problem solving, participants were bought into the process and were excited about the potential solutions. We came away with three distinct ideas about how volunteers might support the regional team in future, and with an action plan to begin making this a reality. The next step? To test these ideas with volunteers.

Attached is a quick guide to running a Design Thinking workshop. There are plenty of different activities you could do to achieve the same outcome – but I hope it’s a helpful starting point.

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone thinking of facilitating a session, it would be this: let go of what you think are great ideas. Although with your volunteer manager’s hat on, you might see lots of opportunities, bringing these to the table goes against the principles of Design Thinking. Ideas should come from within the room, as a result of going through the problem solving process. As a facilitator it can be hard to begin a session not knowing the direction it might take – but I promise it’s worth it for the outcome.

Amie would like to hear how you get on! Please let her know in the comments below.

Download Amie’s Design Thinking workshop

Moving to action – addressing inclusion and diversity in volunteering

In our latest AVM Bitesize, we chat with Dr Helen Timbrell and Hadji Singh about Helen’s recent research: “What the bloody hell are you doing here?” A comparative study of the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and White volunteers in four organisations

Improving the diversity of our volunteers and creating more inclusive, welcoming environments is top of the wish list for many volunteer managers. But how do we actually do this? How do we move from knowing there’s an issue around the lack of diversity in volunteering, as established frequently and most recently in NCVO’s Time Well Spent Report, to moving to purposeful action?

Focusing on experiences 

“Some White volunteers were simply unable to conceive that the experience of a volunteer could be impacted by ethnicity or that their own experience would not be shared by others of a different ethnicity.” (report extract, page 16)

To move to a place of sustained, purposeful action we need to understand more about the actual experiences of volunteers within organisations. What is actually going on for people? Knowing this helps us to clarify where things are going well, so we can do more of that, and where things are tricky, so we can invest in targeted improvements. ‘What the bloody hell are you doing here?’, Dr Helen Timbrell’s recent research, which compares the experiences of BAME volunteers and White volunteers in four organisations, does exactly that.

In our latest AVM BiteSize, which we’re making available to all, we chat with Helen, and Hadji Singh, about the research. Hadji is a volunteer with the Witness Service at Citizens Advice, one of the organisations who participated in the research. To get a copy of the report, do email Helen at [email protected].

Where next?

“Organisations need clear strategies for their work on equality, diversity and inclusion….those strategies must specifically focus on the role volunteering, volunteer managers and volunteers play in creating inclusive organisations”  (report extract, page 35)

Have a listen or read the BiteSize transcript, and/or read the report and then let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

This is important work helping all those involving volunteers to better understand where we could make a difference to developing an inclusive environment for BAME volunteers to feel they have a place and a voice.

At AVM we are acutely aware of the lack of visible diversity at our events and from those on behalf of our members and would value the opportunity to address this. From a practising volunteer manager’s point of view, we do try to ask what we are doing that’s adding to the problem, and this is an important question for the profession to grapple with – where is volunteer management itself getting in the way?

This is a scary question but with an open mind and an assumption of positive intent (if sometimes unintentionally clumsy practise), we believe we could begin to work in a more inclusive way where those who are seldom heard from can have a voice. This is, after all, the power and strength of volunteering.

There is an obvious role for organisational leaders to create the environment for honest dialogue and reflection, and to introduce measures that drive results. As Helen talks about in the BiteSize, there is also a clear need for us, as volunteer managers, to build our own knowledge and skills around diversity and inclusion, in order to then support volunteers.

At the same time, as Hadji says, there is also a real fear of getting it wrong. Learning through doing is crucial here, and feeling a bit scared is usually a positive sign that you’re learning something new, but if people are too scared, and lack support, that’s not going to help.  So how might we, as a community of volunteer managers, support each other on our journey to develop purposeful inclusive practices that make a meaningful difference? As the report highlights, to be successful this will need to be focused on action, not just more discussion!  If you’re interested in joining in this important work please do get in touch [email protected].

BiteSize with Helen Timbrell and Hadji Singh

Themes from Covid-19 networking calls

AVM has hosted a number of networking calls to discuss and share how people working with volunteers are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic. As similar themes and suggestions have emerged across all calls, we have pulled these together with  links and resources generously shared by those on the calls. We have loosely grouped these into parts of the volunteer journey.

If you would like to add resources or suggestions to this resource, please get in touch.

Please check back for updated information.

Page last updated: 17 April 2020. 

Supporting volunteers during lockdown

This was a big concern across all calls, particularly where a volunteer manager was, or was expecting to be, furloughed.

With staff capacity also reduced, there is a need to balance volunteer recruitment against supporting existing volunteers. In some cases organisations are not recruiting because they don’t have the capacity to do both. Volunteer supervision can still take place, by phone or online, one-on-one, or in a group. And if not in place, volunteers can provide peer support to other volunteers as a new role.

Some organisations have new ‘Home Volunteering’ policies, and have updated safeguarding policies and procedures to reflect the change in supervision (where remote/ virtual volunteer roles are new).

Organisations are using a mix of platforms to keep in touch with volunteers, including Workplace by Facebook, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, Zoom, Skype. On a previous call, one organisation shared they had a conference call service from their local phone coop. A number of organisations are setting up volunteers with organisational Zoom/ Teams/ Skype accounts. Others are providing volunteers with support to set up their own. Drop in online ‘coffee mornings’ were frequently mentioned. 

It was suggested that using existing platforms people are familiar with will help, though one organisation mentioned that a volunteer had developed how to guides for using new tech that have been shared with volunteers, and another is doing short online surgeries for tech support. Make them easy to read with plenty of screenshots.

Protecting our privacy when on video calls came up a few times, with suggestions of a guide for volunteers – and staff – who are not used to this. Suggestions of things to include in a guide: making sure other household members know you’re on a call (children, half-dressed partners, others who would not like to be in shot); making sure you don’t have personal stuff in the background you wouldn’t be happy for colleagues, clients or other volunteers to see; virtual backgrounds (don’t work for everyone); ensuring you understand and use the privacy features for the system you are using; how to change your name on the screen; reminding people who phone in that their phone number will be visible.

For volunteers who are not comfortable with online communication methods, The Phone Coop offer a conference call system. Or you could arrange regular phone calls as a way to connect, which can be done by staff or set up volunteer buddies.

Some expressed concerns about setting up WhatsApp groups for volunteers, where phone numbers are then shared. Making it optional and ensuring that anyone who signs up knows their phone number will be shared with the rest of the group should mitigate this, but speak to your Data Protection Officer if you have concerns. This can also apply for Facebook groups for volunteers.

Blurt have some useful resources about mental health and well-being during the pandemic on their website.

Some of you are giving existing volunteers the opportunity to pause their volunteering, not putting pressure on people to feel that they need to continue as normal – because nothing is normal right now. 

Recruitment,induction and training

Those of you still recruiting are looking to hold video or phone interviews. There is some nervousness – not necessarily from volunteer managers – about safeguarding when moving to online recruitment and not meeting volunteers face-to-face, particularly in roles which are supporting vulnerable people. Key to addressing this is not to drop your standards when recruiting on video, and don’t settle for just telephone: video allows you to see the person you’re interviewing. Some of you have been reinforcing with colleagues that our frameworks and standards don’t disappear overnight and that they do know what they need to do, but we’re able to help them do it differently if they need it.

If you need documents signed, there are various websites or apps that let you do that. Docusign was recommended, but there are others available. 

There is a fast track DBS service only for Covid-19 eligible roles in England and Wales. You can check role eligibility on the DBS website.

Disclosure Scotland are prioritising checks for coronavirus response roles needed to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. 

Details about Access NI checks can be found on their website.

DBS have amended their ID checking guidance during the coronavirus outbreak.

Some of you are rolling new training to volunteers around empathy, having open conversations, as well as around boundaries.

Training is being delivered online, with webinars and other online modules. In some cases this is only for existing volunteers, but some are developing online training for new volunteers.

If you’re not recruiting, it was suggested that signposting potential volunteers to places where they can volunteer at the moment, but also keeping them on a list to get back to once you start recruiting again. 

Moving volunteering opportunities virtually

Many people on the calls you reported that volunteering was stopping while social distancing is in place. Where possible, people are moving roles virtually, or redeploying volunteers into roles that can be done from home. Some organisations are still recruiting. Charities providing direct support to individuals are seeing an increasing number of people needing support, but additionally volunteers may need more support.

Letter writing came up fairly frequently,  particularly as a way of connecting with people who are now isolated (in some cases additional to telephone calls).

For young people in hospices/ homes, virtual storytelling (by existing volunteers) was a suggestion of a new role.

Moving befriending or mentoring to a phone-based or online service is a common theme for many. In a previous networking call, Zoom had been recommended for online befriending, as it is possible to set up the calls without sharing volunteers’ personal information. Others have developed guidelines explaining how volunteers can protect their personal information, as organisations cannot provide all volunteers with a phone.

Asking volunteers to share social media content or key messages with friends/family is an easy microvolunteering role that can be done virtually.

Asking staff and volunteers to think about what tasks could be done virtually that aren’t being done. Research was a good example, as was signposting to information in local community Facebook groups. For example, health charities might be seeing misinformation spreading about the impact of coronavirus on the health issue.

Ask volunteers and service users what they want/ need, and what could be done virtually.

Where roles involve more detailed one-to-one casework, staff should trial with service users first, to ensure volunteers are prepared for the extra emotions of the current situation, which is not specifically their role.

Making sure to complete or update role risk assessments to reflect the role is remote.

Jayne Cravens has written a blog “NEVER a better time to explore Virtual Volunteering than NOW” which is worth a read.

Volunteer recognition and Volunteers’ Week

With Volunteers’ Week fast approaching, we wanted to discuss how you can continue to celebrate volunteers whilst many will still be in isolation. There was also a wider discussion about general volunteer recognition.

Awards and recognition events

  • Reviewing annual awards and ceremonies. In particular looking at how to get groups of volunteers nominated, rather than individuals, to recognise that a key driver is that volunteering is a sociable activity
  • Pre-recorded videos from trustees for award winners
  • Exploring live-streaming awards ceremonies or pre-recording winner announcements
  • Sharing stories of the winners through comms channels
  • Engaging with award winners virtually instead, through sending them t-shirts, certificates in the post – they will then take selfies and we can collage together to have a virtual group picture. 

Use of social media/online connection tools

  • Volunteer to do social media takeover
  • Social media campaigns to tag the organisation and person with their thanks for informal recognition
  • Social media to raise the profile of volunteers and showcase the diversity of volunteering.
  • Asking volunteers to send in selfie videos to share on social media
  • Using Slack or other channels to have online forum interactions and discussions around certain topics
  • Using Volunteer Management Software to engage existing volunteers online through really great content themed around sharing, thanking and recognising
  • WhatsApp groups
  • Using Facebook to encourage volunteers to connect and to share ideas about how they are managing their wellbeing. Trying to encourage volunteers to share videos, recipes, art and craft they have done.
  • Sending out emails and letters to all volunteers encouraging them to access our Volunteer ‘intranet’. We’ve had a mixed response so far but continue to monitor as the weeks go on – adding new videos/activities to the portal.

Saying thank you in different ways

  • Pre-recorded webcasts or podcasts with thank you messages to volunteers
  • Asking teams to make short videos to say why they love volunteers, and edit into a longer video.
  • Video of colleagues to talk about their work with volunteers – internal profile raising of volunteering
  • Mini thank-a-thon: getting CEO & senior staff to call or write to volunteers during Volunteers’ Week
  • Personalised video messages from the Chair or Trustees saying thank you
  • Connecting every staff member with a volunteer and getting them to sending thank you cards, messages, forget-me-not seeds, pin badges etc. in the post
  • Asking participants of vol-led groups or recipients of volunteer time to complete the sentence: “I ❤️ my volunteer because…” The vol’s were so flattered and unaware of the impact they had on individuals, easily done digitally. Montage of comments was a huge lift for vol’s! really personal feedback.

Live virtual opportunities

  • Cross fertilising knowledge with another external partner – each deliver a webinar around an area of expertise and open to volunteers in both organisations
  • Virtual meetings (using the variety of systems that have been mentioned) instead of face-to-face meetings
  • Online volunteer-based game show!
  • Using Zoom (or other) for live training volunteers in different skills.
  • Weekly virtual quiz – staff and volunteers or volunteers only. Can also help to raise funds too that our staff and volunteers are getting involved in.
    Setting up a Q&A for volunteers, on Zoom with the CEO.

Creative

  • Weekly activity/challenge – set volunteers challenge or activity once a week and ask them to post or send in photos/comments and then release these (montage) the following week
  • Running online shops where charity shops have closed. Volunteers who are creative can make items to sell online, e.g. cards, artwork, blankets.
  • Asking volunteers to check clothing banks on their daily walks.

Connecting people

  • Buddy schemes
  • Randomised coffee trials
  • Digital pen pals
  • Staff messages to volunteers – I am still here, this is my role, this is how I can support you in this time, contact me by…
  • Start a longer mentoring relationship scheme
  • Weekly Zoom coffee meet ups with volunteers.

Asking volunteers

  • Ask volunteers how they’d like you to keep in touch and what they’d like you to do, including if they are happy to have another volunteer keep in touch with them (and also ask volunteers if they’d like to provide support).
  • Also ask volunteers what needs they have while they are isolating, and signpost or help where appropriate.
  • Surveying volunteers – what are their ideas about connecting, thanking and recognising in this time. What do they want to see?

Other

  • Changing email signatures to reflect Volunteers’ Week and say thank you.
  • Reminder that Volunteers’ Week should be highlighting groups of volunteers as well as individuals.
  • Building case study portfolios – what does volunteering mean to you and how has this current crisis changed this or changed your role (collecting now and releasing gradually throughout the year)
  • Supporting groups to undertake forward planning and how to build in their own recognition and connection between their volunteers in a proactive way
  • Spotlight story every month – short blog or interview showcasing a group or a volunteer
  • Have shared a live Google Doc with ways to overcome loneliness and isolation virtually
  • Get in touch with local colleges to offer local distance learning opportunities to volunteers.

Telephone and online support – for clients and/ or volunteers

A number of calls discussed on how to move face-to-face support roles to online or telephone. As well as supporting clients/ beneficiaries, discussions also included the best ways to support volunteers who had been stood down.

Befriending Networks have useful resources for converting face-to-face befriending or mentoring to telephone support. 

Zoom was recommended as a good tool for setting up befriending or mentoring call, as they can be set up by the volunteer manager/ service manager, and protect the volunteers’ personal details. If a volunteer wants to use their personal phone (because many organisations cannot provide them with mobile phones), it was felt important to let volunteers know how to protect their phone number.

Some care homes/ hospices/ hospitals are asking people to donate redundant communication devices (smartphones, ipads) or asking people to donate redundant devices, as many residents don’t have access to them.

Longer-term impacts

There are obviously some concerns about the unknowns, and when things will become ‘normal’ again, and how this might impact volunteer retention where you’ve had to close down volunteering programmes, as well volunteer recruitment in the future.

Concerns about how to re-engage volunteers whose roles our outdoors were raised, particularly where they have been reluctant to stand down in the first place. These concerns come from how this fits with the government’s plan for ending lockdown, in order to minimise another high, second wave of the virus.

While some organisations are developing short-term volunteer roles for the duration of the pandemic crisis,others hope to continue virtual roles beyond. 

A few of you mentioned you are already seeing opportunities where you can simplify some processes in the long-term. As it has been proven this can be done in a crisis, there is a good case for reducing some red tape in processes once social distancing is over. Asking the question “what did we drop to make it easier to volunteer during the crisis” makes it easier to ask “so why do we need to still do it?”

What I actually do

At the end of every week I email all our volunteering colleagues with a round up of things they may need to do, read or should be aware of outside Diabetes UK. It’s a good way to put everything in one place and balances the inevitable asks with a little bit of levity and humour – I’m not one for taking things too seriously where we can avoid it. I think it’s generally well received, more so after I updated the format in response to calls from some volunteer managers to include “more memes please?”

This week I shared this with the team:

It got me thinking about the perception of working in volunteering versus some of the more practical elements we all encounter. Before I go any further, I should probably ‘fess up that before I started working at Diabetes UK I probably had a fairly narrow view of what volunteering meant as a career.

Let’s take a minute to run through these pictures, starting with the top row. My friends and family probably have a very specific idea about what I do based on my previous experience as an actual volunteer. My daughter used to come along and help on stalls, and when we talk about somebody needing a volunteer for something, she points at me because “that’s what Daddy does”. It’s hard to explain that your job is often so far removed from what volunteers do and in my case involves a lot of train travel and saying “can you hear me?” on Skype calls.

As for society, I’m not sure we’ll ever completely break that perception that volunteering is first or foremost standing somewhere with a collection tin. Nor do I necessarily think we should try and entirely sever that link. We might call it fundraising, but the tins and buckets don’t hold themselves or have those conversations with the public about our cause. While volunteering is so much richer than this, and if we want more people to be part of what we do, we definitely have a responsibility to talk more about all our opportunities, I still think it’s many people’s first impression of what we do.

In my role, it’s rare that I find myself in any of the situations in any of the top pictures any more. I do make sure I get out to visit volunteers and our local groups regularly, as well as attending as many of our networking events and conferences as possible, but running a stand or holding a collection tin is a much more infrequent event.

Let’s look at the bottom row. It’s wholly unfair to suggest that my (wonderful) boss thinks I only do one thing, but it’s a meme innit? I’m lucky that she understands the complexities and variation that comes with my job and supports me in all of the challenges that it throws up. I picked that picture because I think there rightly is that expectation that I’m looking at how volunteering becomes a stronger part of everything we do at Diabetes UK.

What I think I do…  I won’t lie – it involves a lot of meetings. No, I mean a LOT of meetings. And a lot of travel. No, I mean… well, you get the point. I’m very lucky that my role is home-based, but it does mean days in the office can often be back-to-back-to-back as you try and shuffle your diary to see people face-to-face where you can. It’s not uncommon to balancing a sandwich and a half-drunk coffee on my laptop as I go from one room to another.

What do I actually do?  It’s been one of those periods where it feels like the 9–5 (ha!) has been dominated by some of the more detailed aspects of my role. As we continue to ensure we have the most appropriate and safest recruitment practices in place when it comes to our volunteers, there are inevitably safeguarding questions that pop up. I’d be surprised to hear of any volunteer manager who couldn’t relate to that. Similarly, when you’re dealing with volunteers’ information you end up having a lot of GDPR conversations.

As hard as we try, we don’t always get things right and my job means I’m the first escalation point for some of the more involved complaints we might receive. I spoke at the AVM conference in November about this – we don’t get a lot of volunteering-related complaints, it’s just the ones that we do get often need more thought and attention and when you get a couple at once it can feel like it’s all you’re doing. Coronavirus is just the icing on the cake. I imagine it’s caught all of us off-guard to a large degree and having to be able to adapt and respond as information changes means it’s a large focus of our time.

This is the most varied and complex job I’ve ever had, but it’s also the most rewarding. It’s tough to balance that societal perception that it’s easy (and we’re all working for free) with the difficulties that sometimes come along. It’s also hard to reconcile how quickly and immediately volunteers want or need information with the wider considerations that we need to take into account. Providing a knee-jerk response to one volunteer can feel like we’re providing the best service possible, but sometimes taking a day to think about how one problem (e.g. coronavirus) can affect all your volunteers and putting together a more concerted response is better in the long run. Overall, I think the perception of volunteering is that it’s a never-ending stream of happy, sunny, easily organised events that run seamlessly.  And it often is. But the bits that are hidden are those that often take a huge amount of time and effort, sometimes even just to share what feels like the simplest of messages.